Sir William Temple, in his Observations upon the United Provinces gives a very human page to this old town: “Among the many and various hospitals, that are in every man’s curiosity and talk that travels their country, I was affected with none more than that of the aged seamen at Enchuysen, which is contrived, finished, and ordered, as if it were done with a kind intention of some well-natured man, that those, who had passed their whole lives in the hardships and incommodities of the sea, should find a retreat stored with all the eases and conveniences that old age is capable of feeling and enjoying. And here I met with the only rich man that ever I saw in my life: for one of these old seamen entertaining me a good while with the plain stories of his fifty years’ voyages and adventures, while I was viewing their hospital, and the church adjoining, I gave him, at parting, a piece of their coin about the value of a crown: he took it smiling, and offered it me again; but, when I refused it, he asked me, What he should do with money? for all, that ever they wanted, was provided for them at their house. I left him to overcome his modesty as he could; but a servant, coming after me, saw him give it to a little girl that opened the church door, as she passed by him: which made me reflect upon the fantastic calculation of riches and poverty that is current in the world, by which a man, that wants a million, is a Prince; he, that wants but a groat, is a beggar; and this a poor man, that wanted nothing at all.”
Hoorn’s Harbour Tower, as I have said, has a charm beyond description; but Enkhuisen’s—known as the Dromedary—is unwieldly and plain. It has, however, this advantage over Hoorn’s, its bells are very beautiful. One sees the Dromedary for some miles on the voyage to Stavoren and Friesland.
Friesland: Stavoren to Leeuwarden
Enkhuisen to Stavoren—Draining the Zuyder Zee—The widow and the sandbank—Frisian births and courtships—Hindeloopen—Quaint rooms and houses—A pious pun—Biers for all trades—Sneek—Barge life—Two giants—Bolsward—The cow—A digression on the weed.
The traveller from Amsterdam enters Free Frisia at Stavoren, once the home of kings and now a mere haven. A little steamer carries the passengers from Enkhuisen, while the cattle trucks and vans of merchandise cross the Zuyder Zee in a huge railway raft. The steamer takes an hour or a little longer—time enough to have lunch on deck if it is fine, and watch Enkhuisen fading into nothingness and Stavoren rising from the sea.
Before the thirteenth century the Zuyder Zee consisted only of Lake Flevo, south of Stavoren and Enkhuisen, so that our passage then would have been made on land. But in 1282 came a great tempest which drove the German ocean over the north-west shores of Holland, insulating Texel and pouring over the low land between Holland and Friesland. The scheme now in contemplation to drain the Zuyder Zee proposes a dam from Enkhuisen to Piaam, thus reclaiming some 1,350,000 acres for meadow land. Since what man has done man can do, there is little doubt but that the Dutch will carry through this great project.